If you are looking for a tutorial that shows you how to make a site like Facebook, you're in the right place.
Facebook is a huge social networking site and with more than 2.4 billion visitors monthly it's the 3rd most visited website on Earth.
People love Facebook. You're going to know exactly what you need to do to start your own social networking site that's full of features.
Just a heads up, Facebook has a ton of features aside from it's basic use of connecting friends and chatting to each other. It has a for sale marketplace, events system and live streaming options.
These features cost a lot of money to develop, maintain and run so I won't show you how to include them. I don't know of any ways to re-create Facebook exactly without costing many thousands of dollars.
Don't let that put you off. What i'm going to show you will give you an awesome social network where people can form individual connections or join groups and post all types of media and share them together. It looks the bomb and you'll love it.
Is it really possible to start a community like Facebook and succeed?
It will take a lot of your time, a bit of your money and a strong will to succeed…But you can do it and make it into something amazing.
Is it really possible to make money from your own social community?
To make money from your own social network you can easily include advertising banners and pop-ups, sell premium features or access to premium content areas that are unlocked after payment, write sponsored posts and include affiliate links throughout your network.
If you can make a product that your social networking audience would love, sell it on your site by using banner advertising or add a e-commerce store to your social networking site and have people buy and checkout right on your social network.
When people sign up to your social network, you'll have access to their email address.
This is huge!
When you have your site visitors email address – and you'll get access to every one when they sign up to your social media network – you can use this communication to share links to products that will help them live a better life.
You'll just happen to make an affiliate commission at the same time.
Say you have a community focused on a certain video game, you could promote a new super-accurate mouse that helps your audience do better in the video game.
You'll refer your audience to the product using an affiliate link and when they make a purchase, you'll get a percentage of the purchase price.
There are lots of opportunities to make money. As long as you are promoting a good product that resonates well with your audience, you'll do just fine.
What you will have at the end of this tutorial
This is how a profile page will look on your own website once you get finished with this tutorial.
Pretty sweet right?
Before we dive into how to build it, let's break Facebook.com down and look at each feature on it's own.
You need to identify what features make Facebook so popular.
What individual components make Facebook
- Members directory
- Groups directory
- Member page (posts, updates, bio)
- Profile fields (name, age, school, employment)
- Activity streams
- Account settings (profile, privacy options)
- Member friendships
- Friendship request/decline system
- Public messages
- Private message system – inbox, compose, starred (between members)
- Notification system – what causes notifications, how to notify, read/unread notifications
- Email system (alerts, friend requests etc)
- Group management – add/remove members, cover image, details
- Sitewide, Group and Member individual activity streams
- @Username mention system.
- Favorites/Friends/Groups Activity stream
The good news is that the solution i'm going to show you today has all of that and then some!
You're getting closer to diving in to building, but we've got to figure out a few more things so your new social website will be a success.
Identify Your Audience
Who will be the people that sign up and join your social network?
It's tempting to say my site is for everyone. But doing that just makes it harder for your site to get traction.
I'll tell you why.
People need to feel that they would benefit from joining your social network. What's in it for them? If you want everyone to join, ask yourself this – why would they when Facebook is working perfectly well for them?
That's a really tough battle to fight.
A way you can start to break through Facebook's dominance is by targeting a much more specific group of people.
A real life example would be starting a social network just for dog lovers and breeders….but that's still to general. Go even more specific like…
Starting a social network just for German Shepherd dog lovers and breeders.
You can dominate that niche with your custom styled social network that's totally German Shepherd themed and has tons of Shepherd owners posting photos and sharing videos.
You might be surprised of the number of people who would love to get away from Facebook and try a social networking site that's more in tune to their tastes.
A lot of people get put off by having to use their real name to start conversations. Some people are shy, some people just don't like having their name out there.
You can be the solution to that.
Allow anonymous names.
That doesn't mean you allow foul language, hate posts or any other unpleasing content. It just means people can relax a bit more and have fun.
The system I'll show you how to build allows that. So you can be ShepardDaddy if you want :).
So, you need to figure out what specific group of people you'll target. Try and find something you're knowledgeable about and are a member of yourself. It'll be easier to ‘talk' to the audience, if you're already part of the audience.
Other ideas of niche focused communities you could start:
- Paintball community
- Video gaming community
- Cricut crafts community
- Pastry chefs community
- Geko or tarantula pet community
- NFL football team community
- New blogger community
- Mustang community
- and more!
First Get Web Hosting
Before you start learning how to build your social network, you need somewhere to put all the files that make your social network function.
You need a web host.
A web host will give you space on one of their fast computers for you to upload and store your files.
When people type in your domain (www.YourSite.com), they will see your files on the web host.
You should get hosting with SiteGround. I have personally used this company and they are fantastic. Support is 24/7 via online chat, email or phone should you need it.
It's under $6 a month and will give you a fast website with enough room for growth and the best support in the industry.
They have a 30 day money back guarantee and I personally endorse them. They rock.
Grab it here and choose the GrowBig plan.
Get Your Custom Domain Name
Now that you have a web host – somewhere to put your files to make your social networking site – you need to get a domain name.
A domain name is www.google.com or www.madsub.com or www.target.com.
It's your address on the internet where people can view and use your website.
You're going to have to get creative.
Since you know who your audience is – who will be visiting your site – you should think of a domain that incorporates that topic somehow.
From the German Shepherd niche social networking example above, potential domains might be
There are lots of ways to go about brainstorming domains and I won't go into super detail here, but my recommendation is to use NameCheap.com, find a domain that is available and register it.
Start by visiting NameCheap here, enter your ideas in the search box (#1 in the screen shot below) until you find a good one. It costs less than $10 bucks a year for a domain.
My recommendations for a good domain are:
- Shorter the better (GermanShepherdSocialNetwork.com = No! ShepNet.com = Yes!)
- .com only
- No hyphens –
- No numbers
- No slang
- Spells like it sounds (Dominos.com, Nordstrom.com, Madsub.com)
- No adult words
- 3 words max
- Do not use words already trademarked
Point Your Domain To Your Webhost
To do this, make sure you are logged into your NameCheap account and click Domain List in the left hand menu.
Find your domain in the list (if you have just one it'll be easy) and click manage.
Next, you'll need to enter in the name server address of your web host so your domain (www.You.com) connects with the right website.
Your nameservers might be different than mine, so to find them login to SiteGround and access your User Area.
Go to My Accounts and click on the Manage button.
Navigate to Information & Settings. On the age with the account management information look for where it says Account DNS. These are the pair of name servers that you've been assigned for your web hosting account.
Copy the first name server and go back to your NameCheap manage domain page. Next to the NAMESERVERS title, click NameCheapBasicDNS to open a menu.
Next, click Custom DNS
Enter the name servers you located on SiteGround's user area and enter them into the first two spots on the nameserver list like this (#1 and #2)
Finally click the green check mark (#3).
You've just setup your domain (www.yoursite.com) to point to your webhost (SiteGround).
It can take up to 48 hours for the settings to take affect.
This is because all the servers around the world that make up the internet have to each get updated that your new domain is now pointing somewhere.
The next thing you have to do is install WordPress, the foundation of your social networking website.
Why You Should Use WordPress For Your Social Networking Site
The framework I want you to use to setup your social network is WordPress.
If you're not familiar with WordPress, it powers 75 million websites and is responsible for managing how your website looks and works.
It's a rock solid system and will allow you to build your own social network ontop of it.
To access cPanel on SiteGround go to User Area -> My Accounts tab -> Go to cPanel button.
When you access your cPanel, type Softaculous in the search bar and click on the Softaculous menu item like this.
Next type “word” in the Softaculous app installer and click “WordPress” when it shows up.
You'll see this screen next (below), scroll down a bit and click Install Now.
Next, you'll have to setup some basic details of your new WordPress install. It will look like this:
If you think you can complete this on your own, go for it. Otherwise I've broken down each section below to explain what they mean and what to do.
|1. Choose installation URL||You should have only one or two options here. Make sure you select your domain (www.YourSite.com).|
|2. Site name||Usually this is taken from the domain, but if you've used an acronym spell it out here.|
|3. Description||Type a short description about what visitors can expect to see on your new blog or website.|
|4. Enable multisite (WPMU)||Leave unchecked. This is for installing a multi-site WordPress package. You don't need it.|
|5. Admin username||I'd recommend leaving this as random characters for security. Write this down!|
|6. Admin password||Make sure this is a strong password. Write this down too!|
|7. Admin email||Put your email address here. Make sure it's correct.|
|8. Select plugins||Your list may be slightly different than mine. Don't worry. The only plugin i'd recommend installing from the list I have is "Classic" editor. I'll tell you why later.|
|9. Email installation details to||Put your email address here so you have a record of what you just setup!|
|10. Install||Click it!|
Getting Started With WordPress
Note: It can take up to 48 hours for your new domain name to populate around the world and become active. You might have to wait a bit before you can login to your WordPress admin dashboard.
Next I want you to login to the admin section on your website.
Open up a new web browser window and type this in, using your new domain instead of “YourDomain.com”:
For another example, say I just bought ShepNetwork.com, i would type:
If you are struggling, you should of received an email with your new WordPress installation instructions, you should be able to find your admin login there. It might be called “wp-admin”.
This is what you should see:
Use the admin username and admin password you setup in Softaculous to login to your WordPress website.
Once you've successfully logged in, you'll see a screen like this:
Congratulations! You've installed WordPress on your own domain!
This is the first step to building your own social networking site like Facebook.
Setting up WordPress as a Social Media Network
After installing WordPress, the framework of your site, you have to install a few more things so that your installation of WordPress will function like a social network. These are the extras we'll be getting:
you will need a theme that will transform your plan WordPress installation into the beginnings of a social networking community.
I've bought, tested and assessed the two best selling themes that are custom designed for a social network and use WordPress as it's framework.
Kleo and OneCommunity.
The better theme of the two is OneCommunity. You can view it here.
This theme is essential to get for your new social networking site and you can get it from ThemeForest. Aside from web hosting, this is the 2nd biggest cost for your new social networking website and is only $59.
It's well worth it.
You'll get excellent support if you need it, regular updates to fix bugs and add new features and a well coded website that is ideal for a social network.
Yes this means you have to put down a bit more money, but this is something you want to take off and become popular – something that's worth a bit of money investment to make happen. You'll be using this theme in 11 months time and still be getting support and updates.
Put it this way, it's less than $5 a month.
Go ahead and add OneCommunity to your ThemeForest cart and checkout.
Go to your downloads area and find the OneCommunity theme to download it:
You should see a download begin of the theme to your computer. If you're using the Chrome browser, it will appear along the bottom of the browser window like this:
How to install OneCommunity theme to your WordPress website
So by now you should have
- Webhosting through SiteGround (GrowBig plan)
- A domain name through NameCheap
- OneCommunity them through ThemeForest
Let's install OneCommunity.
In your WordPress website click Appearance -> Themes
Next, click Add New
And then click Upload Theme.
You need to find the location of the One Community theme you downloaded from ThemeForest.
Normally it's in your Downloads folder on your computer. To access your downloads folder, type Downloads in the search bar at the bottom of your screen (Windows 10))
Locate the file in the Downloads folder. The filename will vary slightly from mine (updates have different version numbers) but it should look something like this:
Go back to your internet browser window (Chrome, Safari, Edge) and your WordPress admin dashboard, where you clicked Upload theme.
Click Choose File, locate the theme file you found in your Downloads folder click Open and finally click Install Now.
Next you'll see a screen with Live Preview, Activate, Return To Themes Pages. Click Activate.
You'll then return to the theme over view page.
The OneCommunity social networking theme is in depth and uses plugins to function properly. The plugins come with the theme so there isn't anything extra you need to purchase.
To install the plugins, click the Plugins item in the left sidebar menu on your WordPress admin dashboard.
And select the Install Plugins menu item.
This will show you which plugins you need to install to make OneCommunity work. Select all the plugins (#1 below) and click the arrow (#2 below) to expand the drop down menu.
Select Install and then Apply
WordPress will now begin to download, install and activate the required plugins that help power the OneCommunity theme. It might take a few minutes so let it do it's thing and finish before you navigate anywhere else.
Once it's finished you could get a few plugins that were unable to be downloaded and installed on your WordPress website.
Don't worry. I have a two solutions.
First, let's retry downloading the plugins and activating them manually. Maybe it was a random glitch that caused some plugins to be missed.
Navigate to Appearance -> Install Plugins. Then check the box (#3 below) and click the arrow to expand the drop down menu.
Next, select Install and then Apply
Hopefully the plugins will download and install as expected. Unfortunately for me, that didn't happen and I got this screen showing that they all failed again!!?!
Let's try solution number two. Manually installing the required plugins.
You can see that each of the plugins that failed have a web address that shows you where the plugin can be downloaded from like this:
Highlight the link by holding down your left mouse button and dragging it across the link from left to right. Release the left mouse button and hover your mouse over the link that's now highlighted. Right click and select copy.
Now you have the link copied to your clipboard, open your web browser (chrome, safari, firefox, edge), right click and paste the link into the address bar. Press the enter key and you should see the plugin file download.
Do this with any plugins that had the message An error occured while installing ……
For me, these the plugins I had to manually download
When you have all the missing plugins downloaded, navigate to Plugins -> Add New Button-> Upload Plugin Button. Select one of the plugins you just downloaded, install and activate them.
Tip: Be sure to check that all of the plugins you just installed are activated. Go to Plugins -> Installed plugins and check the box to select all of your plugins. Click the arrow to display the drop down menu.
select Activate and finally press the Apply button.
It might take a few minutes for the plugins to be activated, let it finish.
OneCommunity & Youzer
OneCommunity is a good theme to choose for your social networking site. It has some good features, but they are somewhat basic for a social networking site.
People are used to Facebook and it's advanced features.
For you to compete and setup a social network that people will use, you have to make sure your site has similar features that people are used to on Facebook.
Now, you won't be getting ALL the features of Facebook. They have invested millions to make that site what it is!
Fortunately, i've got a solution that isn't anywhere near millions, it's actually under $50.
Youzer is a plugin that will BOOST your social networking site with features that people expect and will enjoy using. Youzer works in combination with OneCommunity to add extra features and styling.
These are some of the features Youzer:
- Social wall
- Notification system
- Verified badges
- Social Login
- Members Directory
- Activity Stream
- Groups Directory
You can also enable your members to make their profiles private. A super important feature of any social network.
Youzer is an essential plugin if you are wanting to make your new social network something that really can attract users away from Facebook. You'll get free lifetime updates, so the purchase is only needed once and it's only $4 a month for a year if you break it down. A cheap price to run a social network that you own!
Check out all of it's features here.
Once you buy it, download it from the downloads area in CodeCanyon using the link https://codecanyon.net/downloads.
Install it by navigating to Plugins -> Add New -> Upload Plugin (button).
Make sure Youzer is activated.
You might see some prompts to run scripts to sync Youzer to OneCommunity. Click on each link to run the scripts.
Note: I'm going to assume you bought Youzer and continue setting up OneCommunity with that in mind.
Setting Up OneCommunity Theme On WordPress
Let's take a look at your site, it probably looks quite sparse and blank like this:
I'm going to show you how you can import demo data to your site so that you'll be able to get a feel of how it looks, works and see the different features OneCommunity has.
Right now you've just installed the framework for your social media network. Let's install some demo data to make it come alive.
Go back to your ThemeForest downloads here https://themeforest.net/downloads
Find OneCommuity, click Download and then All Files & Documentation
A file will start to download. For me it was named themeforest-C9TQoxTI-onecommunity-buddypress-theme.zip
Find the folder the file is in. Usually it is in your Downloads folder.
Right Click -> Open With -> Windows Explorer
Locate the folder Demo Content and double click it.
You will find a text document with instructions to install the demo content. Don't worry if it sounds like a lot to do, I'll show you how to do it.
#1 Download demo content
Copy the link in the text file and paste it into a new browser window. Press enter to load the link. You'll see several files and a few folders. Because you are using OneCommunity and Youzer, You need to download the file demo-onecommunity-youzer.zip.
Tip: If you choose not to use Youzer (why??) then you can download demo-onecommunity.zip. The import process is the same.
Right click and select Download.
The files you are downloading contain the demo data that will fill your OneCommunity theme up with test members and articles so you can get a feel of how everything works.
#2 – Install Migration Plugin
To import the demo data into your WordPress install, you'll need a plugin called All-in-One WP Migration plugin. It's free and can be found on the WordPress plugin directory.
Navigate to Plugins -> Add New and searching for All-in-One WP Migration plugin
#3 – Install the demo data on your WordPress site
You need to find a file inside demo-onecommunity-youzer.zip to upload to your WordPress site. You will have to “Unzip” it first. To do that on Windows 10, open File Explorer, and find the zipped folder. Right-click and select Extract All, then follow the instructions.
Once you have the folder unzipped, locate demo-onecommunity-youzer.wpress.
Navigate to All-in-One Migration -> Import -> Import from: File and upload the demo-onecommunity-youzer.wpress file.
This file is large! Give it some time to upload and import. It may stay on 100% for a while. Be patient! Seriously. It took 30 minutes to complete for me, waiting on the 100% screen.
Just wait a bit longer, it will finish.
Tip: If your demo import is stuck on 100% after 40 minutes, go ahead and import the other demo file located in the demo-onecommunity folder and called demo-onecommunity.wpress. I have been messaged by a few people with this issue and using the other demo file works fine. It seems it can vary depending on your webhosting setup.
This is just to import the demo data so it isn't critical to the operation of your website. Remember the login user and password changes after you import the demo file to username:admin and password: d3d2eiedk7
Once the demo is imported, change your password by hovering your mouse over your username in the top right corner and click Edit My Profile
Then scroll down to New Password and click Generate Password
When the demo data is installing you'll see the following screens
Once that's successfully complete the import of the demo data, click the FINISH button. You might get a screen like this showing after that. Go ahead and click Update WordPress Database.
#4 – Reset Permalinks
Next, you'll need to reset the permalinks so they are configured correctly. Permalinks depict the link structure of your WordPress install and becaues you imported a ton of demo data, they need to be reset. Simply going to Settings -> Permalinks -> Save Permalinks is all you need to do
#5 – Disable & delete the Header Footer Code Manager plugin
Almost there! Go to Plugins -> Installed Plugins and remove the plugin called Header Footer Code Manager.
NOTE: You may be logged out or get a message that your session has expired. If you do, login using the user and password in the text file like this:
#6 – Change the email address of your website
Go to Settings -> General and make sure the Administration Email Address is correct
#7 – Disable discourage search engine from indexing this site
Go to Settings -> Reading and next to Search Engine Visibility make sure that is NOT checked.
Now go checkout your website!
Go and explore, click around and test your new social network out!
My recommendation to you is that you leave the demo content on and start to learn how to manage your social network. All the data you have is fictional, so you can test until you are comfortable that you have a good understanding of how your new social network works.
You should add a plugin to temporarily close off your website to public and search engine access. You don't want people to register while you have all the demo data installed and you don't want Google to index your site – to add it to it's database – because you'll be removing it all when you open your social network and officially launch.
The plugin to “turn off” your WordPress website to public view is Coming Soon Page, Under Construction or Maintenance Mode Page by Seedprod.
To find this plugin, navigate to Plugins -> Add New -> Search for Seedprod. Save and activate the plugin.
When you activate the plugin, you should automatically be taken to the SeeProd Maintenance setup page. Make sure
How Long Does It Take To Build A Social Network?
It takes time. Fvery project i've ever made online has always taken time to get established and time to see it gaining ground and attracting traffic. Your main goal is to attract members to your social network and there are hundreds of ways you can do this. Ads, word of mouth, banners, stickers, sponsorships, giveaways, reviews, guest posts and more.
Without sounding obvious, the more you promote your social network, the quicker you'll see results.
The website I just walked you through to setup has some really in-depth features and it will take you a bit to understand what they do and what you can do with them.
The best way to learn your social network is to log in and start experimenting – especially when it has some great demo content and you've turned on maintenance mode so it's not open to the public.
I think the success of your social network will depend on how well you can target a specific group of people with a specific, shared interest. You can setup a resource – your social network – for them to show off, discuss and discover more content that they are excited and eager to talk about.
People are nuts about NFL football – make a social network for your favorite team. Like a certain video game? Make a social network dedicated to that. What about a social network for ATV owners, or for guitar players? Maybe a social network for entrepreneurs would be more your thing? What about a social network for your church group or club?
If you can make your social network THE place to go to meet and discuss whatever topic you choose, you'll succeed. Once you have some people signed up as members, they'll start generating content and your social media site – that you own! – will snowball and gain traction.
I will go into more detail of the features Youzer and OneCommunity theme offer in seperate posts, but for now, play around with your new social network and feel good that you did it on your own.
What's next for you?